Politics is funny isn’t it? It’s so many things: customer service, advocating, community building, public speaking, event appearances, and finally decision-making. One would think that the role of politician is primarily policy setting – I would argue that is only a portion of my role. This post however is about the policy setting, the decision-making.
Debate and discussion.
The decision-making process. We (councillors) are the decision makers for municipal issues. We are given reports and asked to make decisions. We pitch new ideas, or modifications to existing rules to our colleagues. We debate these things and come to a decision.
You win some, you lose some.
Now that I have been in office for over a year, there were a few ideas I wanted to try. I’ve pitched them to my colleagues. Some ideas, we were able to implement, others fell flat. I have pulled three examples from the recent past to share.
Just last month, after conversations with some of our local firefighters, I pitched an idea that we donate our end of life cycle equipment to GlobalFire. This is equipment which we can no longer use in Canada as it’s at the end of its normal use. Ordinarily this equipment would be disposed of, however, there are fire departments all of the developing world, where there is no fire equipment to assist them in doing their job. This motion was supported by our Fire Chief, the London Professional Firefighters Association and my colleagues. A win.
Does it matter where we sit?
Another idea – why not try changing up our seating at council. I wondered how decision-making would change as we were able to gain a different understanding from our colleagues. While I have made great efforts to get to know each and every one of my colleagues, I noticed that often councillors will chat with their neighbour while at council or committee. These side conversations may impact how we understand their perspectives, and what harm could come from changing this up? After much more debate than I anticipated, this vote lost in a 7-7 tie. This was not a big deal, nor a big change, but something to try. If we are not swayed or influenced by those we seat near, what would the harm in changing be? And conversely, if we are swayed or influenced, doesn’t changing that up help?
Does common courtesy require formality?
Lastly, at our most recent Governance Working Group meeting, I suggested that we should add to our procedural manual that Councillors should send regrets to be noted in the minutes if they will not be able to attend a meeting. There was some brief discussion about this from the ten member committee, however, in the end, the motion did not pass. Again, not a big deal, nor a big change. I did feel that sending the information ahead of time to be published in the minutes is a way for councillors to advise their colleagues, and the community that they were not able to attend and that this had been communicated.
So, do I chalk up my effectiveness as a councillor to the wins and losses? The big stuff and the small stuff? If I really consider this and try to look at the big picture, I have to conclude it’s not about the wins and the losses, nor the length of debate. It’s about trusting the system. It’s the belief that the collective decision-making of a group will be better than the decision-making of any one of us individually. That is the power of having a council – 15 diverse opinions, who look at each and every issue (big or small) with a different “lens”. Each individual sharing their thoughts and through their vote, the group has taken a holistic view of the issue(s) at hand.
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